Of the four bids, WA was the only state with its border closed to Queensland, where 16 of the 18 AFL clubs and their entourages are currently based.
Mr McLachlan said WA’s hard quarantine and border restrictions left the AFL Commission and league executives with little choice but to look elsewhere for a host.
“For the integrity of our finals series, the hard quarantine was our real challenge,” the chief executive said.
WA Premier Mark McGowan didn’t necessarily agree with the reasons for the AFL’s decision, but he understood why.
“[Mr McGowan is] unapologetic about his tough approach. It’s served West Australians well,” Mr McLachlan said.
West Coast, currently fourth on the ladder, stands to lose most through the WA government’s stance after Mr McLachlan confirmed the club would not host a preliminary final in Perth.
“He’s a footy guy and knows what’s possible for us with seven-day quarantine requirements and finals.
Mr McLachlan on Eagles CEO Trevor Nisbett
The AFL boss said it was still possible the club could host a final in the first week if it earned the right to, given the league had enacted a pre-finals bye that would allow a visiting club enough time to quarantine before playing the Eagles.
“You have to work through the logistics of a seven-day hard quarantine … so I think a prelim final is difficult. Week one is possible but it’s very challenging,” he said.
“WA football fans will understand. [The WA government is] absolutely committed to a hard border over there. It’s the majority view of West Australians, and keen football fans will understand.”
Mr McLachlan confirmed WA’s grand final bid did not include provisions for a capacity crowd at its $1.8 billion Optus Stadium.
“We didn’t have a commitment for 60,000. Things may change … but we could only make a decision on the 30-35,000 capacity (in Perth),” he said.
Mr McGowan said on Wednesday the AFL Grand Final was not top of his priority list.
“Western Australia obviously has the better stadium, the strongest AFL crowd and the most healthy environment, but they went to Queensland for other reasons, obviously. So, good luck to them,” he told Mix 94.5.
“I know for some people it’s their number one priority. My number one priority is keeping people safe and getting jobs back in our economy – and AFL comes third.”
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett was given the news on Wednesday morning and understood why the league had made its decision.
Adelaide contingency if COVID hits Brisbane
The AFL boss said Adelaide Oval would host the grand final if a COVID outbreak prevented it from being held in Brisbane, while the Victorian government’s contract to host the event annually until 2057 had been extended by a year.
“The Queensland presentation was world class and, while the grand final will be the centrepiece, an extensive promotional campaign for the sport of Australian football, including multiple regional locations throughout Queensland, will bring fans closer to footy in the lead-up to the event and provide a lasting legacy,” Mr McLachlan said.
Mr McLachlan said 2020 had been an extraordinary season, one where changes that would have taken years had had to take days, sometimes hours.
From a drop in the number of games, to the drop in game time, to virtual and then socially-distanced crowds, to clubs and families living in hubs, shortened breaks between games, increased flying of clubs and families across the country on a whim, and some 45,000 COVID tests.
“Decisions have been made in consultation with governments and health authorities all with community safety at the forefront,” he said.
Further details on the finals series, including the scheduling policy for hosting finals, as well as the Brownlow Medal and other events would be announced in coming days.
David writes about sports and lifestyle for WAtoday.